Tag Archives: #gdnbloggers

Strength of a Seedling

tomatobaby

Over the last few days, I’ve been checking the heated prop for seedlings. There’s a mixture of cayenne, cucumbers and tomatoes in there, so quite a variation in potential germination. This does mean that I end up fishing things out every now and again as I see green leaves. I don’t have many tomatoes just yet. I think I have a handful of wiry, somewhat leggy seedlings. The one above, looks reasonably happy and healthy for the time being. It has been named Tom by the baby sister.

Sowing seeds in pellets is useful; I don’t make a mess with compost and run the risk of Mama F’s wrath over muddy floors. However, they do have a tendency to dry out in the heated prop. I’m not sure if that’s down to the pellets themselves or the ageing heated prop. It’s certainly been cranky this year.

I am also feeling  very protective of seedlings, with there being a regular window-sill shuffle. As the weather changes, tomatoes and chillies do have a tendency to curl up and keel over.

In other news, it’s happy belated birthday to Sow, Grow and Eat: From Plot to Kitchen. I’d quite forgotten, but this book-the green one-is now three years old. This was the second of the gardening books. Well, it is part GYO and part cook-book. A third, is a work in progress. It sits on my desk, waiting for my to have the mind-space to finish it. It has been on  my mind lately, and I daresay there will be an attempt at some point to get it together. Sat here typing, I am eyeballing the cook book folder, wondering what energy and focus I need to commit my thoughts to paper. The pens, sit near by, poised to pounce. I wait for the tipping point, the mojo to dive straight once more.

sowgroweat

As mentioned above, the book is part GYO, part cook-book. There are recipes inside for jams, jellies and preserves made using plot produce as well as the home-brew that has been made. It does rather go well alongside the yellow one.

Blossom in the Breeze

moorparkapricot

Blighty has been battered by bruising winds; Storm Freya has been swirling around to cause all sorts of mayhem. The Indian Spring has started to fizzle down, with temperatures returning to a seasonal norm.

I took a walk down to the plot today, to simply clear my head. For days now, stories to write have been jostling around in my head. I needed fresh air, half an hour perhaps to potter around and refocus a little.  There were however rain clouds over head and what was a smattering, spitting shower became a cold, momentary downpour that saw me beating a retreat.

In that brief window, I did manage to re-centre, think about how I might move a raised bed as it is now full of raspberry runners. They are everywhere, places where I didn’t think they would travel. These are fall gold, yellow autumn fruiting variety that aren’t actually half bad. I have had more luck, through sheer fluke, with yellow raspberries than pink ones. Raspberries, being raspberries, do rather like water and lots of it. By moving a raised bed, it can be located somewhere far more useful.

The mission continues to cover and contain. That had been my plan for this afternoon, to cover a couple of raised beds. The precipitation and chilly wind weren’t particularly motivating. I surveyed instead, to literally get a lay of the land. Reclaiming the plot is starting to feel a little less overwhelming as it all becomes a little more organised.

With the pottering, came the realisation that the Moorpark Apricot was effectively in full blossom. There has never been so much, with only one or two blooms. I do wonder though, if this could be false hope. The weather has been unseasonably warm, the winds are swirling and temperatures are falling away.  I do feel that the blossom is something of a lesson in resilience. Each and every bloom is looks very fragile, as though it might float off in the breeze. However, the blossom is hanging on in defiance of a sort.

 

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

cayennes

The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

Back to the plot #gdnbloggers

Let’s get back to it, let’s get back to the plot. I finally put time aside and I took a walk to the allotment. I had black plastic, I had my secateurs. This didn’t mean I was about to lay waste to everything. No, I was and am taking baby steps back to the allotment plot.

plastic

This may not seem a lot and there may be those who say it’s barely anything. It is a lot to me and it is something. I had did my best to chop down bits and pieces that were sticking up and out. Unfurling plastic, I set it down onto the grass that had been left to weather away before Christmas. Weighing down, I’m slowly surely covering the top half of the allotment. I can then concentrate on clearing the lower half where there are raised beds to be tidied up. This is not going to happen overnight; I want to be able to organise my canvas and go from there. There will be no cultivation til I have some sense of order and some sense of things being organised. I actually ached from doing this; I’d forgotten what that pain felt like and why it feels different to other pain.

pellets

That said, I do want to sow some chillies. I have seeds and pellets now. In the next week or so, I will keep an eye on the weather and see to sowing cayenne and habaneros. I do have a heated prop, so that’s where things will be. Light levels are still low, and heat levels fluctuate daily.  If seedlings do germinate, I daresay they will be the most pampered plants in the house. It’s not easy to sow and grown chillies. I have observed that the hotter the chilli, the harder it is to get the seedcase to crack. Many growers have grow lights, and swear by them. I tend to grow things cold; there’s still something about using grow lights that feels really very intimidating, and not very me.

Beyond that, I will think about tomatoes. It is still too early. I have know tomato plants to keel over if we have a cold snap at Easter.

 

 

 

Growing your own greenery

 

Thinking of this title, my immediate thoughts were about Cabbage and sprouts. I’ve yet to grown sprouts, and Mama F is rather intrigued to do so. The one time we had them at home, the stalks got attacked by cabbage fly and it wasn’t pleasant. Cabbage on the other hand, has been an interesting learning experience. I didn’t much success with growing from seed, so using plug plants has been far more useful. You’d think that you could plug cabbages in, and that would be it.

Not quite. Leaving them uncovered and exposed invites all sorts to munch away. You’re cabbage patch is soon decimated, you declare war on slugs and it all ends badly. Mama F builds cages covered with netting to held reduce the impact of flies and bugs. It’s a bit like an assault course trying to get in and harvest things, but the crop remains in one piece for the most part. There is certainly a lot of green, leafy things which end up on saag or pakoras. In my experience, the greener, more bitter a cabbage or green might be, the less likely it is to be attacked by anything. Not had much success growing red cabbages. Mum has possible had a couple grow, but there does seem to be more challenge with these.

There is always Spinach and Kale in some form on the plot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve trundled along to pinch Mum’s crop for Spanakopita. You need armfuls for dinner, but it is something very straight forward to grow. I’ve always  broadcast sown the seeds and never bothered with plug plants. Plug plants would certainly help with spacing and reduce the need for thinning out. Every year, Mum sends me on a hunt to find the biggest leafed mustard green that I can find. We always end up with more perpetual spinach that we need, but it does get sown and grown. Kale is probably the more hardy of the two, and can be found to be growing along quietly in the middle of bleak winters.  And if it’s Rainbow or Vulcan chard, it’s rather pretty.

When it comes to greenery, this also covers herbs. There is masses of mint on the plot and Fenugreek is ever present. The latter is also a green manure, but wonderfully edible. It’s fire-y and bitter, but can be used in a similar way to spinach. Dried, it’s a burst of flavour when added to dishes that need a kick. FenMint should be contained; as I have found, it is unruly and get’s every where. It is however versatile, with a little going a long way.  Just think of all those mojitos….

An unlikely candidate for greenery, would be bolted radishes. Mama F starts of trying to grow Mooli. Only the weather plays havoc with fickle radishes and they bolt. When they bolt, they produce crisp, pepper flavoured pods. These you can snack on, or add to sauteed onions and garlic to make a curry.

 

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.

To resume a love affair #gdnbloggers

polkapink

To my dearest allotment, my wonderful blog and my alter ego, Petal.

I miss you, I would like to fall in love with you again. Shall we give this another go?

As I come to the end of 2018, I look back at an eventful year. There have been adventures, a level four counselling course and one big massive Bollywood Wedding. The Punam Farmah universe has been going through huge changes.

Oh, and two books too.

So I haven’t been around as much as I could have been My brain has been full, my body stretched and my soul has been spread horribly thin. I think I have also displaced my smile and my purposeful James Bond walk. This has been painful and then some.

Quite simply, I have lost my bounce and my flow.

Two things, that I would like to get back. Two things that the plot, the blog and Petal have always given in abundace.

I should go down the plot. (I hate the word should). Given the storm currently bashing Blighty, I know it will all be a mess. There is no colour, only chaos and this pains me greatly. The once or twice that I have been there, it has felt as though I was feeling devestation. The whole thing looks ravaged and that hurts me.

How could I have let something so beautiful, so well made and cherished slip away?

Last Christmas, I planted chilli seeds. These failed, something didn’t feel right. Perhaps I knew on an intuitive level that this year wasn’t going to my year. That there wouldn’t be enough of me to use the plot.

The allotment, the blog, Petal all make me happy. I have bored so many people senseless with the tales from the alloment. Handed over jars of preserves, and then there is the Petal Plonk. I swear Gardening appears in all the books in one shape or form.

So I need to resume my love affair. Or at least flirt with the idea of having another crack at things. Admittedly, I have said this so many times this year and not acted. I guess the universe didn’t want me to.

Right now, the wind is blowing. There are big fat storm clouds. I am reminded, that big fat rain clouds will burst. Contained within their silver lining is rain, that washes things away. The droplets nourish arid earth and let greenary bloom. The rain might get caught in the sunhsine. Light splits, you get rainbows.

Every grey cloud has a silver lining.

The new year will soon be upon us. The start of another 12 months with a whole lot of potential, a whole lot of growth.

Plus, if I can get up Glastonbury Tor and then down again, I can probably do this.

So, to resume the love affair.

A time to flirt, with the seeds of an idea.

 

And if you wondered about the Big, Bollywood Wedding….

….it wasn’t mine.

 

 

 

Preserving with Petal #gdnbloggers

 

There hasn’t been much preserving in a while. Whilst fruit has been harvested and safely stowed in a freezer, the plot hasn’t been all that productive over 2016-2017. The tomatoes took their time to arrive and when they did, it was a case of battling blight and removing fruit from the vine in the hope that they would ripen at home.  The puddle of tomatoes this year may not have been as big as last years, but there was a puddle nonetheless.  This had to be used, to be preserved. Whilst there has been homebrew-it is sitting aside quite comfortably-there had been no jamming, jellying and chutney-ing for a while. This would have to change.

The puddle would form the basis of preserves as Petal and I played with the preserving pan.

My first endeavour was chutney, of the green tomato variety. Last year, I dabbled with adding apple and pears, so I decided to repeat the feat with this years experiments. My first batch of chutney, involved the green tomatoes, alongside Falstaff apples and also using the abundance of fenugreek that Mum’s plot has produced. That gives you three different flavours and textures that somehow have to amalgamate together to a suitable counterpoint that brings the whole thing together. I had forgotten, how long it actually takes to chop up all the ingredients and how there is the propensity to make a mess in Mama F’s kitchen. You can have hundreds of green tomatoes, all of varying sizes that need to be chopped up, then there is the apples that have to be defrosted and chopped too. On the surface of it, this could be a drag. Until that is, you stick your ear phones in, develop a technique and hear the muffled words “Punam, I’ll help you, it will be quicker then, and there won’t be a mess.’

Like I could refuse an offer like that.

It was quite therapeutic to make the first batch; with more tomatoes coming and blight about to hit middle earth, it was soon time to make a second batch. I had more jam jars by this point too, by way of preparation. This second batch was simpler and not so fruity in being courgette and green tomato. I forget if I have made this combination before, but it seemed a good idea at the time. It never ceases to amaze me, when rummaging around the pantry of all the different things that could be used. Mustard seeds, be they black or white, will give you an intense ‘curry’ flavour. So when I get asked, did I put curry in the chutney, I have to tut, shake my head a little. Onions, might be used as base, but this flavour changes if you add onion seeds. I don’t put garam masala in-it’s got too many variables-so I take one variable and use that, i.e. coriander, be it seeds or powder.

To make chutney, is an interesting experiment.

As well green tomatoes, there was and is a stash of plums and apples in the freezer. Pounds and pounds have been amassed, so to make jam was the next step.

One of the first flavours that I ever made was plum and apple; named person-centered (it was a some point during a counselling course that I made it) this was calling to me to be made once again. I would be making this alone though, Mama who is usually the production manager would be at school.  The plums were ripe-oh, there is song there-so low pectin, and the apples were cored and peeled. There would have to be lemons or powdered pectin used; I went with the lemons and then stood on a stool at the stove to watch the preserving pan.

It didn’t half smell nice, as everything cooked down and the 104 setting point was encountered. Potting it all up was systematic, has to be done while it is all hot, and soon I I had over a dozen jars. Not bad for five pounds of fruit, but I still have quite a few more. I suspect there will be more preserving over the autumn term,

Preserving, I have missed; Petal and I might have to do some more.

 

Mint Marauding and Mooli Pods #gdnbloggers

There used to be a herb bed on the plot, only it is now full of mint. Mint truly is a thug, the cliché is true. Unchecked, it runs riot and takes over. With the unbalanced combination of rain and sun, the plot mint has grown quite a bit. This has meant mint marauding, chopping it back to harvest leaves. As you can see, the bouquets were nearly as big as me, and three large bundles of the stuff were harvested. I guess that you can never have too much mint! Having harvested it all and carried it home, Mama F and I spent a few hours at the dining table stripping the leaves so that it could all be frozen. There are several different varieties, with some smelling like spearmint and chocolate mint in there somewhere too. It would take a proper connoisseur to smell out the different mint varieties.

At the moment, I have vague plans to make mint jelly. Usually, the plot mint ends up in chutney; Mum can rest assured, there is tonnes still left for her to use.

The second half of the day focussed on Mum’s mooli pods. She had found that the radishes that she sown had bolted; as such, there were lots of seed pods.

pods1

These are actually edible, and different varieties of radish will produce seed pods of different potencies. For example, seed pods from Japanese radish have a peppery fiery-ness. In the image above, these are pods from an unknown red variety, and these were quite sweet to the taste.  As you can imagine, I was going a little dotty anyway, having plucked away all that mint. However, as Mum had helped me, I was going to help her. All We had harvested less than half of her entire bolted radish crop, yet we managed to fill three troughs of seed pods. How I did not see seedpods in my sleep, I do not know.

Mum plans to cook up the seed pods; the recipe is in sow grow eat!

Other than mint marauding, I was loitering with therapeutic intent as well. I’ve not een to the plot in a while, so have missed the blooms blossom. Shakespeare is well and truly kicking off, and the glads have finally kicked.  I have the standard, as expected six pears on the tree-it’s always six, no idea why-with tomatoes making slow but certain progress. I’m not holding my breath with the tomatoes; there will be a significantly smaller crop than expected, and no puddles of tomatoes like last year. There are fewer plants, and I don’t think the Roma variety will keep their place on the plot. Marmande appears to be the winner as per usual.  All three of the grapevines are burgeoning; lusciously leafy, there are clusters of grapes starting to swell. With raspberries creaking to an end, I was able to harvest a handful of plump ‘darrow’ blueberries. The other two varieties haven’t so much as sneezed this year, the one plant is turning copper and going to sleep.

 

P.S. yes, I know,  need allotment proof nail varnish.

 

 

Fruitful flaming June #Gdnbloggers

Has flaming June been hot enough for you?

The last week has seen a heatwave move across Blighty. With that, the levels of UV and Pollen have skyrocketed. For me personally, this has meant staying away from the plot as the grass pollen tends to assault my senses and render me sneezy with bogey overload. I can be stood there sneezing and on loop as soon as I get there. At one point, I was dragged away and by my mother whilst trying to find roses.

Today, the weather is distinctly cooler and I can actually stand up straight without having been kiboshed by pollen.

This morning, I have taken a walk down to the plot and tied tomatoes against canes. I have Roma and Marmande varieties sunk into raised beds, and do rather fancy finding some more. If I do manage to successfully cultivate anything on the plot this year, I would like it to be tomatoes; additional plants are on my shopping list for the weekend. A simple as job is and of staking tomatoes, I am glad I did. Over the last few months, going to the plot has been a challenge. For a whole host of different reasons, I  have rather lost my zing, and I could feel it all too much. I pottered on the plot this morning, I wandered around-like the proverbial cloud-and then decided that I wanted to see what fruit was growing. I had forgotten what it was like to wander around, pull out weeds, trample over blackberry bushes and just take in the scent of roses. I stood talking with a ‘lotment neighbour, and a gentle breeze carried the scent of zingy lemons towards as we spoke.

Last weekend, I was able to harvest a handful of raspberries to put into jelly-yes, fruit and jelly-along with some black and redcurrants. There were also some red, yellow and green hinonmaki gooseberries that had appeared.

There are gooseberries and raspberries on my plot and also Mama F’s, so I have picked a few of these to take home. I think I have got most of the gooseberries, having had a fight with the bushes; I had forgotten how vicious the damned things can be. Last year, I had made gooseberry and chilli jam. Prior to that, I had steeped some in Gin-now that was interesting-I have yet to work out what I will do this year. It is currently a toss up, between jam and Indian Amla Pickle.  It has been far too long since I played with my preserving pan; I need to find the moments, my mojo and a bit of fruit to do it with.

Mum has more raspberries than I; the pinks ones on my plot have never actually taken root and flourished, with the yellows being something of a saving grace when they do crop. A small harvest was made of raspberries and currants; mostly red as I am waiting on the black and white ones to ripen.

Seeing red and purple cherries did make me smile. This is by far the largest harvest that we have to date; I’ve picked those eight, with a few still left to ripen on the morello. The varieties that I have are stella and morello, and these were from Victoriana Nursery in Kent. So far, I have been lucky and not lost them the birds on the allotment.

Given how the weather has only just found it’s footing, the three plot grapevines are foliated and the some. Amongst all of the leaves are small clutches of baby grapes. I don’t remember having any grapes last year, so seeing the bunches is heartening. Not sure if they will make it to homebrew, but there is always grape jelly as an alternative.

 

As well as the fruit, there are the plot blooms. Roses are coming up lovely , and filling the floral trug with blooms is always nice. I am waiting for the glads to kick off; right now, they have risen blade-like from the dirt and are very green and leafy.  I cannot even begin to calculate how much the rose blooms might actually cost.  They are by no means perfect; they are au naturale, if you like; but they do smell and look lovely!